The QCA has a list of approved authors it says 11 and 12-year old children in the UK should be reading in schools. This list includes authors such as Jane Austen, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William Blake, Charlotte Bronte, Robert Burns, Geoffrey Chaucer, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, John Keats, John Masefield, Alexander Pope, William Shakespeare, Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jonathan Swift, Alfred Lord Tennyson, HG Wells, Oscar Wilde and William Wordsworth.

Chairman of the English Association’s secondary schools committee, Ian Brinton, agreed that many of the texts on the prescribed list were too difficult for most pupils at Key Stage 3 (ages 11 to 14).

He said: “Pupils are not going to learn if they are going to be stunned into a sense of, ‘ this is what good literature is’.”

He added: “I would be interested to know what Alan Johnson and the QCA people were reading at 11 and 12 years old. It’s very easy for people to forget what the world of childhood is like.”

He said he would be surprised if any of the authors on the list was taught to this age group. A more practical approach would be to use poetry to teach children how to read a text closely, he added.

I was a precocious reader as a child; indeed, I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t read. I was blessed by a) parents who owned a lot of books, b) a school with a well-stocked library, and c) teachers (these were the days before the National Curriculum and non-stop testing) who had a real love of literature and who did indeed use poetry to teach us how to study a text, and think about and discuss what we were reading rather than just learn the “right answer” for a test.

And then, when I was 15, we started reading Thomas Hardy’s Far from the madding crowd, and even my love of books faltered in the face of that novel. I loathed it (although I wasn’t daft enough to let on to an English teacher who adored it), and to this day I still shudder when I see it in Waterstones.

How many 11 and 12-year olds will be reading books by the authors on that list? Will they be inspired and enthused, or will they be reduced to the same near-comatose state Thomas Hardy brought me to all those years ago?